Current measurement by real-time counting of single electrons
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2005

The fact that electrical current is carried by individual charges has been known for over 100 years, yet this discreteness has not been directly observed so far. Almost all current measurements involve measuring the voltage drop across a resistor, using Ohm's law, in which the discrete nature of charge does not come into play. However, by sending a direct current through a microelectronic circuit with a chain of islands connected by small tunnel junctions, the individual electrons can be observed one by one. The quantum mechanical tunnelling of single charges in this one-dimensional array is time correlated, and consequently the detected signal has the average frequency f = I/e, where I is the current and e is the electron charge. Here we report a direct observation of these time-correlated single-electron tunnelling oscillations, and show electron counting in the range 5 fA–1 pA. This represents a fundamentally new way to measure extremely small currents, without offset or drift. Moreover, our current measurement, which is based on electron counting, is self-calibrated, as the measured frequency is related to the current only by a natural constant.

charge soliton

single-electron

current standard

single-electron transistor

tunnelling

Författare

Jonas Bylander

Chalmers, Mikroteknologi och nanovetenskap (MC2), Kvantkomponentfysik

Tim Duty

Chalmers, Mikroteknologi och nanovetenskap (MC2), Kvantkomponentfysik

Per Delsing

Chalmers, Mikroteknologi och nanovetenskap (MC2), Kvantkomponentfysik

Nature

0028-0836 (ISSN) 1476-4687 (eISSN)

Vol. 434 7031 361 - 364

Ämneskategorier

Fysik

DOI

10.1038/nature03375